Pre-colombian Archeology

Anthropomorphic CántaroMuseu Nacional

Chancay Culture

The Chancay culture developed during the Late Intermediate period in the valleys of the Chancay and Chilean rivers, extending south, towards the Rimac river. Its ceramics are characterized by their porosity, rough surface, and light-colored engobes with brown paintings. A large portion of this culture’s ceramic pieces belonging to museum collections originated from cemeteries located on the Chancay and Ancón valleys. The Chancay also developed sophisticated weaving techniques.


The human figure represented in this pitcher presents ear adornments and a brown facial painting.

Robe AnglesMuseu Nacional


The decorative pattern of this fabric consists of walking birds seen from profile, distributed in diagonals, with tri-colored stripes that define the graded space.

Fragment of ThongMuseu Nacional


Decorative pattern in horizontal streaks with bird motifs, arranged in squared spaces. When seen vertically, the background colors form a zig-zag.

Double vase with bridge handle (another piece)Museu Nacional

Chimu Culture

The Chimu reign began to flourish in the 10th century, in the Moche river valley, where its splendorous capital Chan Chan was established, on the northern Peruvian coast, accommodating circa 50 thousand people. With the disarray of the Huari hegemony, the Chimu expanded, subjugating the mountain populations and reaching the oriental side of the Andes mountain range until they were dominated by the Incas. They produced characteristic ceramics of very dark color, obtained through reduction firing, which combines stylistic elements of the Moche and the Huari cultures.


This piece represents a feline, and on its bottleneck that rises from the stirrup handle, there is a small zoomorphic appendix, a common characteristic in Chimu vases.

Double Vessel with bridge handleMuseu Nacional


This piece presents a human figure wearing a headwear. The Chimu pottery expertise in the confection of the casts for the mass production of its ceramics, permitted surface treatments of great aesthetic effect, as seen in this vase, although from an artistic point of view it is considered inferior to the Mochica ceramics.

Feathers accessoriesMuseu Nacional


Between 1430 and 1532 A.D., the Incas dominated large portion of the Andean region. In its apogee, the Inca domain extended over more than a million square kilometers, with different ethnicities that added up to circa 12 million people at the time of the conquest. Consequently, their artifacts and other elements of their material culture constituted an amalgamation of various styles and techniques, generating original creations, such as the shapes and motifs found in their ceramics. The most common Inca style is called “cusqueño,” characterized by the strong presence of geometric motifs over a red background. In metallurgy, the miniature figures of human beings and llamas stand out, made out of metal alloys that could include gold, silver, or copper. Such figures were dressed with fabrics that perfectly imitated the Inca wear, and their heads were adorned with feather headwear, making it so that only the face of the figure was visible. These miniatures are often found besides mummies in burial contexts.


Manufactured with macaw feathers (Ara macao and Ara ararauna).

Quipu IncaMuseu Nacional


The quipus were used by the Incas as a writing system, for the recording of stories and songs in the Quechua language, as well as for counting both herds and people.

Inca mini tunicMuseu Nacional


The type of piece exhibited here was used exclusively as an offering in festivities known as capacochas, where children sacrifices were realized. These miniature tunics wore small gold or silver icons.

Woolen Adornment, Cotton and PigmentMuseu Nacional


The period of ascension of the Lambayeque culture coincides with the collapse of the Mochicas and the beginning of the Huari hegemony, around 800 A.D. Excellent in the art of metallurgy, the Lambayeque became known for the development of sophisticated goldsmithery techniques. Their ceramics are very similar to the Chimu’s, but it is particularized by the presence of appendices containing the representation of the “Lord of Lambayeque.”


Decorative accessory. Fabric. Lambayeque. Late.

TrumpetMuseu Nacional


Beginning of the Christian era until the 8th Century A.D. Peruvian Ceramics. In the Moche and Chicama river valleys, in the Northern coast of Peru, the exuberant Moche society flourished, between the beginning of the Christian Era and the 8th Century A.D. With a subsistence system based on agriculture and fishing, as well as a hierarchical social organization, with priests and warriors occupying the highest positions, the Mochicas founded a powerful and controlling state. They stand out as constructors of large ceremonial complexes, with gigantic pyramids and temples that continue along the coast. They are excellent in their work with noble metals, also producing ceramics with the highest technical and artistic quality in the pre-Columbian universe, made in casts in order to meet the large demand.


The iconographic representations that appear in this ceramic are so realistic about the everyday and ceremonial life of the Moche society, that they became the main source of information existent about it, in the absence of writing. The archeological findings of musical instruments made out of ceramics are frequent, usually in funerary contexts, with the role of accompanying the individual in his/her life after death.

Canasta with weaving utensilsMuseu Nacional


Rectangular basket of vegetable fibers containing threads, weaving instruments and several vibrant-colored fabrics.

Zoomorfo Double VaseMuseu Nacional


Double whistling vase, in the shape of a parrot with stirrup handle, found in the Moche funerary context.

Moche Globular VaseMuseu Nacional


Globular-shaped vase in which four copious fruits were aggregated, red and cream-colored.

Zoomorfo VaseMuseu Nacional


Felipe-shaped vase, with fangs and white paint over red.

Aymara mummy of a male individualMuseu Nacional



Funerary bundle wrapping a dead man between 30 and 40 years old. According to the Aymara tradition, the dead were dressed, seated with knees next to the chin and tied up. Next, a basket was weaved, wrapping the body around, leaving out only the face and the tips of the feet. Personal objects could also be placed in the interior of the bundle. In the case of this mummy, its cranium is exposed because the highest part of the head did not conserve well. The elongated format of the cranium is a result of a purposeful deformation, a common practice among the Andean peoples, probably realized for aesthetic or religious reasons, or to signal a distinction.

Prehistoric mummy of a maleMuseu Nacional


The desert climate, associated with large concentrations of rock salt found in the soil of the Atacama, make this region one of the most arid in the world, which favors the preservation of organic matter. Consequently, many prehistoric bodies have been found in their sands in good conservation conditions. It is the case of the body of this individual, found in a grave in Chiu-Chiu, next to the city of Calama, at more than two thousand meters of altitude. Its grave, typical of the Atacama, was used between 4700 and 3400 years ago, period in which the desert cultures began their caravan activities.

---► In the cold of the desert it was common to sleep sitting down, with the head resting on the knees, possibly as a way of warming up under the ponchos and caps made out of llama wool. This was also the position in which the dead were buried, wrapped in clothes and covers, along with their belongings. In this case, all that was left was the typical Atacama cap that he wears, weaved in wool and adorned with llama hair. His body does not present external signs of the death's cause. The visible lesion on the left side of the face, where the bone is fractured, resulted from a trauma. People from Atacama did not have a war tradition, but at times they fought and practiced violent rituals.

Credits: Story

Alexander Wilhelm Armin Kellner

Cristiana Silveira Serejo

Wagner William Martins
Lygia Dolores Ribeiro de Santiago Fernandes
Luiz Fernando Duarte

Antonio Ricardo Pereira de Andrade
Valéria Maria Fonseca de Lima
Marci Fileti Martins
Lydia Maria Gomes da Silva
Lorrana Gonçalves de Alcântara
Déborah Rezende Gouvêa
Christina Aparecida de Lélis

Rômulo Fialdini
Valentino Fialdini

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps